Protecting Wildlife Habitat
The best way to protect wildlife habitat and encourage biodiversity is through an assessment of a property’s natural resource and habitat value, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping technology and “boots on the ground” ecological inventorying, followed by development of an appropriate stewardship plan for the property.
A property may have unique, exemplary, and highly sensitive resources that require special approaches and practices to protect, preserve, and enhance its special natural features, such as rare species habitat. Rare species are identified by the MA Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program or the NH Natural Heritage Bureau. Here stewardship objectives emphasize protecting these areas from potentially adverse disturbances and impacts. Other more typical properties are more resilient, and therefore common forestry and agricultural practices -- utilizing Best Management Practices -- and recreational activities can be practiced at sustainable levels.
NRWA can use GIS resource overlays to provide a general screen whereby lands of special resource significance and sensitivity can be mapped and identified. Landscape features such as forested areas, wetlands, streams, ponds, vernal pools, and state regulated areas like water protection zones can also be mapped as part of this overlay approach. Following such desktop mapping and data collection, we can ground-truth the information through an in-field eco-inventory, and ultimately help to create an appropriate stewardship plan.
The NRWA has undertaken several significant habitat ecological inventories in the Nashua River watershed including Focus Areas for Wildlife Habitat Protection in the Nashua River Watershed (Jeff Collins, 2000), followed in 2002 by surveys of five specific areas in the watershed (Pine Hill, Townsend Hill, Whitney Hill, Wrights Ponds). Additionally, in 2003 the NRWA received a grant to commission James DeNormandie to produce a Wildlife Habitat and Natural Resource Inventories in the Nashua River Watershed: A Citizen’s `How-to’ Guide. The document – hard-copy and electronic versions -- lays out methods (ranging from very simple to fairly complex) that can be used by citizens within the watershed to conduct habitat assessments. The Guide was distributed to all watershed public libraries and municipal conservation commissions, and may also be viewed at the NRWA’s Bill Farnsworth Conservation Clearinghouse.
The NRWA also collaborates with local sportsmen’s groups, such as Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, and local Rod and Gun Clubs, to restore natural habitat by protecting water quality; by creating naturalized stream flows for fish; and by preventing invasives from destroying habitat, such as our water chestnut control project. We work with partners on land protection projects to preserve open fields for bird habitat and unbroken forests to provide wildlife corridors. We offer free public presentations on topics such as native wildlife from large mammals (bears, moose) to cold and warm water fish. Presentations also cover how to create wildlife habitat on your property, why forests are essential to the survival of neo-tropical migrant birds, or the importance of a Forest Management and Stewardship Plans for landowners.